don’t mean that I liked them a lot or anything, or wasn’t scared of them anymore. But just for those few minutes I realized they used to be little kids who had never done anything wrong. Those kids were inside them now, prisoners, just like my Daddy’s nice little kid-self was inside him, hidden away. And my Mama’s brave little kid-self was inside her, staying quiet so no one knows it’s there, no one knows how much courage she has.
Do grown-ups all have their kid-selves inside them yet? I didn’t know, but that’s what it looked like. Crow-the- kid and Heddy-the-kid got loose that evening in the motel room and there they were, wearing wigs and thinking up disguises and playing chase like nothing in the world was wrong with them that couldn’t be fixed.
Then Crow did something that made me stop liking the silly kid games they were playing. He hopped on the bed where Mama was sitting and pinned her on her back. He called to Heddy, “You think it’s time I sample this one?”
“ Hey, go for it. Fair’s fair.”
Before I knew it I was out of the chair and pulling on his arm, trying to get him off my Mama. Daddy was up too, off the side of the other bed and reaching across the mattress saying, “You don’t touch her, you bastard.”
Crow pushed Daddy away, causing him to fall back. Heddy said in a deep voice, “You move away.” We turned to see her and she had a small handgun pointed at Daddy. “Fair’s fair, I said. Get over there, on the other bed, now .”
Crow crawled off Mama and stood between the beds, tying Daddy’s hands behind him and his feet at the ankles. Daddy said, “You better not do it.”
“ Hide and watch, Jaybird.”
With Daddy all tied up, Heddy got hold of the back of my hair and marched me toward the bathroom. I said, crying now cause I couldn’t help it, “Don’t hurt my Mama.”
“ No one’s hurting nobody. Get the hell in there.” She pushed me inside and shut the door. She called through it, “And don’t come out unless I tell you to.”
“ Leave my mama alone!”
Crow must have changed his mind. Or came to his senses. Or something. Because I stood a long time with the side of my face pressed against the door, listening and I heard them talking--Crow and my mama. I couldn’t stop crying. Snot was running down over my lip and I blubbered like a stupid little kid. Hadn’t I known Crow would do it? Hadn’t I warned Mama?
I’m so glad Crow didn’t do what he was thinking of doing. I heard him say, finally, “Oh hell, I was only kidding. I’m not going to do nothing. Shit. It was a joke.”
You have to know my mama to know how really bad a thing it was Crow had threatened to do. She told me once how she’d never had real boyfriends until she met my father. How she loved him more than life itself in the beginning. I think even though she was going to leave him after our vacation trip, she still loved him and no one else. She sure didn’t love Crow; she was scared of him. Forced to have sex with him, nobody to help her, no way to stop him, while Heddy looked on... Well, it was the worst thing that might have happened. I don’t know how she did it, but Mama talked him out of it.
“ We can stop for a while if you want to.” The psychologist handed me his handkerchief. He smoked and paced and moved his hands around like he didn’t know where to put them.
No, it’s all right, I want to tell you the rest of what happened that night, I said, mopping my face dry and sitting up straight in the chair. Just thinking about that night made me cry.
Anyway, I said, they didn’t keep me in the bathroom long. The games all stopped when there was a knock on the door.
Crow was suddenly at the bathroom door, opening it and putting his finger to his lips to make sure I didn’t say anything. His face was serious again, and it was the color of ashes in a fireplace. He reached into his satchel he carried in his arms and brought out a gun.
“ It’s your friends,”